Skip to Content
Find More Like This
Return to Search

Metal-Oxo Catalysts for Generating Hydrogen from Water

Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory

Contact LBL About This Technology

Technology Marketing SummaryScientists at Berkeley Lab have developed an inexpensive, highly efficient catalyst that can be used in the electrolysis of water to generate H2—a source of clean fuel, a reducing agent for metal ores, and a reactant used to produce hydrochloric acid and other chemicals. The catalyst is a metal-oxo complex in which modified pyridine rings surround an earth-abundant, low cost metal, such as molybdenum. Compared to other molecular catalysts, the Berkeley Lab compound has a longer life, higher turnover frequency, and may be used at lower temperatures and electrical potentials. In addition, it remains stable and functional when used with untreated surface waters. DescriptionIn experiments, the compound was able to generate hydrogen for at least 3 days at a sustained turnover frequency of 8,510 mol H2/mol catalyst/hour, with a total turnover of 606,000 mol H2/mol catalyst (versus 5 and 100 mol H2/mol catalyst for existing mono cobalt and di-nickel complexes, respectively). An additional environmental advantage of this catalyst is that the reaction can be carried out at neutral pH. In other words, it need not be run in an acidic media, typically required of other processes, that can create hazardous waste. Moreover, the catalytic efficiency may be further improved by altering the pyridine rings or changing the type of metal at the center of the molecule—a tuning process that is not possible with other nonmolecular catalysts.

Water electrolysis is currently conducted with precious metal catalysts or at very high temperatures. As a result, it is either extremely expensive or energetically inefficient. The Berkeley Lab invention addresses these limitations to generate an affordable, clean, and renewable alternative to fossil fuels.
  • Low cost
  • Energy efficient
  • Clean and sustainable alternative to fossil fuels
  • Can be used with sea water and other abundant, untreated water sources
Applications and Industries
  • Sustainable energy/power source
  • Refinement of metal ores
  • Production of chemicals (e.g., hydrochloric acid, ammonia, unsaturated fats and oils)
Karunadasa, H. I., Change, C. J., Long, J. R. A molecular molybdenum-oxo catalyst for generating hydrogen from water. Nature, 464:1329-1333, April 29, 2010.
Technology Status
Technology IDDevelopment StageAvailabilityPublishedLast Updated
JIB-2724Prototype - Bench Scale PrototypeAvailable - Available for licensing or collaborative research. Patent Pending06/13/201006/23/2010

Contact LBL About This Technology

To: Shanshan Li<>